- The Washington Times - Friday, March 18, 2005

NEW YORK (AP) — A federal appeals court has granted a request from Martha Stewart, serving five months of house arrest following a five-month prison term, to give her trial judge the option to change her sentence.

The decision by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was described by federal prosecutors and by people close to Stewart’s defense as routine in light of a recent Supreme Court ruling on federal sentencing guidelines.

The high court ruling said the guidelines, once mandatory for federal judges, are now merely advisory.

Since the ruling, the 2nd Circuit has granted consideration of a new sentence to any defendant who wants one, Megan Gaffney, a spokeswoman for Manhattan federal prosecutors, said yesterday.

Still, legal experts have said since the Supreme Court ruling that most federal judges have followed the guidelines anyway.

The domestic-arts mogul was sentenced last year to five months in prison and five months of house arrest for lying to federal investigators about a 2001 personal stock sale.

That sentence, imposed by Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum, fell at the lowest possible end of the federal guideline range for Stewart’s crimes — conspiracy, obstructing justice and giving false statements.

In a letter to Judge Cedarbaum late Thursday, Stewart’s lead appeals lawyer said he would provide the judge within 10 days suggestions for “modifications to the terms of her home confinement.”

Those suggestions are expected to include a recommendation that the judge end the house arrest.

Stewart has complained to fans in an online chat that the plastic ankle bracelet she wears for monitoring purposes while on house arrest chafes.

“I wish it were removable, but it is not,” she wrote in her chat.

Stewart left a federal prison in Alderson, W.Va., on March 4.

Barring a change in her sentence, she would be free to leave house arrest in early August. She is already permitted to leave home 48 hours per week for work.

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